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Grand Rapids protest against Israeli war and occupation

By Tom Burke |
July 22, 2014
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"Free Palestine" protest in Grand Rapids MI
"Free Palestine" protest in Grand Rapids MI (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Grand Rapids, MI - In the largest anti-war protest since the end of the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq, 140 people protested the Israeli war on Gaza, July 21. Chants of “Free, free, Palestine!” and “Hey Obama you will see, Palestine will be free!” rang out at the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building in downtown Grand Rapids. Young people lined the street with signs reading, “Free Palestine!” and “End U.S. aid to Israel!” The protesters were mostly Palestinian and Arab American, joined by a good number of local anti-war and environmental activists.

Nidal Kanaan, an Arab American from West Michigan and an organizer of the protest said, “We need to raise awareness. We are here today at a unique time when more and more people realize something is not right with Israel. People are willing to listen to us for the first time.”

Reinforcing her son’s plea was Shadia Kanaan, saying, “Silence becomes equal to violence.”

Another organizer, Emad Shatara, said the protest had three goals, “We want the Israeli war to end. Now! We want the massacre to stop and especially children’s lives are on the line. Israeli soldiers shoot aid workers and people trying to flee. Lives are at stake.”

Shatara explained he was born in one of the most ancient Christian villages of Palestine. Christians are as much as 10% of the Palestinian people. He wanted people to know that the Israeli war and occupation is not about religion, it is about occupation and domination. Shatara said, “We want people to realize there are a people, called the Palestinians, whose humanity, as well as their land, is being taken away. We need support and solidarity.”

Also joining the Grand Rapids protest was a contingent of 12 from the Kalamazoo Non-violent Opponents of War (KNOW). A well-known peace and justice group in Michigan, KNOW protests drone warfare at the Fort Custer military base. KNOW also participates in the campaign supporting Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian American woman who is going on trial in Detroit on Sept. 8. The U.S. government is charging the 66-year-old Rasmea Odeh with immigration fraud for not detailing her torture, rape and imprisonment by the Israeli military in 1969 on her immigration paper work.

Organizers say they are joining a worldwide day of action in solidarity with Palestine this Friday, July 25. They plan to have an even larger crowd at the Ford Federal Building in Grand Rapids starting at 4:00 p.m.